PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi on how sports marketers should appeal to women

Marc Bryan-Brown
Nooyi: “We need to understand women as they are … rather than view them as one monolithic bloc.”
PepsiCo Chairwoman and CEO Indra Nooyi gave a well-received keynote address at the inaugural Game Changers conference that focused on the need for sports marketers to reach out to women in an authentic way.

You can download the full text of the speech in a pdf, but here are some of the key points.

Nooyi set up her presentation by laying out many of the reasons that the sports industry should be concerned about reaching the female consumer, including:

• According to a recent Harvard Business Review blog, globally, women control $20 trillion in consumer spending and represent a growth market more than twice as big as China and India combined. And sports are holding their own when it comes to commanding share of that growing female market.

• Female participation in sports has increased tenfold over the last forty years. More girls play soccer now than played all sports 40 years ago. Across the spectrum, there is near parity for total athletic participation. Of all U.S. adults who regularly engage in recreational sports, nearly half are women. And female participation is climbing at a faster clip than men.

• They’re also actively joining the conversation about sports. Among the major U.S. sports leagues, women make up 36 percent of Twitter followers and 43 percent of Facebook fans.

• Half of the shoppers on the NBA’s online store are women. And the NFL says that women’s jerseys are the league’s fastest-growing consumer business. Across eight major U.S. leagues, women spent nearly $1.3 billion more on sports logo apparel in 2012 than they did the year prior.

From the middle of the speech, here is probably the best summation of her argument:

What if we took what we’ve learned from sports apparel sales — where women are at the forefront, not an afterthought — and extrapolated it to how we approach a wide range of athletic goods, services and experiences? What is the new economic reality that we could create? …

While I respect my male colleagues, I think the group that can best provide women with the holistic and meaningful experiences they want, is women. That recent Harvard Business Review blog pinpointed the opportunity.

Most companies target women as end users, but few are effectively utilizing female employees when it comes to innovating for female consumers. When women are empowered in the design and innovation process, the likelihood of success in the marketplace improves by 144 percent!

Think about what a shift this is from the way we have historically created products and services in the world of sports. I think we can safely say that when we’ve looked to reach consumers through sports, we’ve viewed it through a man’s perspective. And collectively, we’ve done an incredible job of catering to men’s every need and want as part of their experience. Every angle is covered: how they like to watch games, how they talk about sports with their friends, how they want to receive their sports news, and of course, what they want to eat and drink as athletes and spectators.

When it comes to women, there has been a tendency to define women in sports in the context of their relationships — they watch games because their husbands watch. They’re interested because their kids play a sport. They buy tickets to a sporting event because it’s a way to spend time with family. Those relationships may be real, but they are not all-encompassing.

And because of this, we haven’t given them an authentic experience. Too often, in very simple terms, we have been “pinking and shrinking” the man’s experience to fit a woman.

So the incredible growth opportunity for us is to go through the same rigorous, 360-degree process from the female perspective. We need to understand women as they are — as players, coaches, captains, athletes. They’re fans — casual and diehard. They drop off their children at practice, and they join their own weekend league. They pick up clothes, and play pick-up games.

All of these groups require a different product, and different messaging. Women don’t all share the same relationship with sports. We need to authentically engage all sorts of women who participate in sports — rather than view them as one monolithic bloc.

Again, the whole thing is worth a read, and you can download it here.

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